Writers' Strike Over, Stars Hit Their Stride on the Red Carpet

Rainy weather notwithstanding, lots of women screen stars wore red and rosettes in celebration of an event that nearly didn't happen.
By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 25, 2008

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 24 Wouldn't it be great if they just walked in, blew right past everyone, like they were late for something, and nobody cared? If they did not stop to talk about their clothes, their morning wakey-wakey-eggs-and-bakey and what sort of breath mints they're contractually obligated to carry along in their bejeweled clutches? What if they simply used the red carpet as a conveyance, a path, from the limo to their Kodak Theatre chair? Wouldn't the world honestly be a better place?

No, and no. This is Oscar night and we very, very little people -- chastened by the striking-writer threat that nearly canceled the five-course marshmallow meal of Sunday afternoon's pre-show -- are ready to revel in the absolute pointlessness. It's a chilly gray Oscar day and yet we are somehow all about the dryness, the wryness, the pure joy of red-carpetland.

Jennifer Garner, finally with a part in a movie that people like (that would be "Juno"), sheathed in a blackest-black Oscar de la Renta thingamagown? Oh yes, ma'am.

James McAvoy batting those baby blues at "Who? You? Me? Definitely! (Maybe!)" Heidi Klum in a Coke-can-red Galliano (which she says she'll be donating to an auction for that whole [Product] Red charity? As in, just strip it off right there at the Governors Ball and let the bidding commence? It's a milkshake, and we drink. It. Up. (Argh. Used our one free "There Will Be Blood" milkshake joke already! So early in the night!)

It takes almost three hours to get each and every celebrity, artiste and studio muckamuck down the football-field length of rose plush-pile on Oscar afternoon. It's been drizzling, spitty, rainy all week (gloomy, like this year's nominated movies!), so they put up tents. Clear plastic tents, making a greenhouse effect, an overheated celebresphere. (Al Gore! Come back to us!) It's three grueling hours of the very sort of junk that drives serious-minded people up a wall these days.

How about another possibility? We love red carpet inanity precisely because it drives people up a wall. It's revenge for football season, for March Madness, for presidential primaries. It's a fluff bath of the very best kind.

You can complain all you like, and we're listening, man, we're listening . . . Ooh! Ooooh! "Project Runway" host Tim Gunn! Our hero!

"I'm working," Gunn says, and here's what to love about him: He's on our side of the hedge. He's over here stuck with TV Azteca, and the Australian equivalent of "Good Morning America" and some AM radio guy who keeps screaming Oscar bits in our ears after his station does traffic on the 1s. "I'm here for the 'Today' show," Gunn says. "It's exciting." But Tim, you're too nice for this sort of thing.

Tomorrow, and for days afterward, on television and in print, these very stars will be brutally reviewed by a jury of former models and so-called fashion experts and the world's meanest gay men. Gunn is the world's kindest gay man: "We're only going to talk about what works, what went right," he says. "We're not here to tear people apart. We'll find what we like. . . . Yellow can be tricky. On the wrong person, the wrong skin, you just look sort of jaundiced." Cue Kelly Preston, a.k.a. Mrs. John Travolta, in a school-bus-yellow Galliano.

Gunn? Mum.

Klum, in her red dress and her hair in a shellacky blond superbun, is holding hands with her husband, Seal. She is swanning down the carpet and she agrees: Not only is Gunn too nice to dish, she says, but "he's the smartest person out here. He knows the most of anyone asking us questions about the clothes." She is interrupted by BET's "Black Carpet" reporter, who wants to know what the least expensive item is that she has on, right now. She's dripping in jewels. "My Victoria's Secret little knickerknockers, I guess," Klum says. (Are those also up for auction tonight? We have $67.)

Up close, everyone looks so pretty, so human, so fragile. We could be friends with Helen Mirren (in her pinot noir-colored Georges Chakra) forever and ever. But in print and online and on television? A whole other disaster unfolds when the clothes are scrutinized. Who knows what the Monday chatterboxes will say, will rant, will blog? Life is wonderful, isn't it?

"I think it's inane," says the incredibly wise 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan, the conniving imp from "Atonement," who says it took her about an hour and a half, "not even that, maybe an hour, I reckon," to pretty up in a bright emerald Alberta Ferretti.

Ronan can't stand fashion coverage, fashion commentary. "It doesn't matter! No one's going to remember. I don't care what people say about how I look. Or anyone. What's the point?" (She'd make an awesome student council president.)

Steve Carell tells us that he's spent the day being "Botoxed, exfoliated, then Botoxed again." And what, we ask him, would he do if he had to go on television and talk trash all week about what got worn? "Oh, everyone knows I'm a fashion expert," he says, rolling his eyes. "I love to sit down and criticize fashion." And the most expensive thing he's wearing tonight? "That I'm wearing?" he says, thinking. "My Spanx. My $14,000 Spanx."

At last, the Clooneyjam works its way toward us. His girlfriend, Sarah Larson, is wearing Valentino, all jewelish and flowery. The evil, un-Gunn person in us thinks shower curtain, but we aren't about to say it. Clooney'd slap us silly. We ask Larson if it's a lot of pressure, getting all dolled about and wandering this madhouse with Mr. Last Movie Star. "It's just long," she says.

"We'll be in soon," Clooney says. "And then there'll be a drink." Speaking of drink, there's still the matter of parties. With Vanity Fair deciding earlier this month to cancel its annual A-list fete, where will everyone go? What will everyone do? Let us assure you, you shouldn't have fretted for the stars. Minions and assistants and personal slaves have been hustling. You won't believe the exclusivity that's been arranged. Not velvet ropes, velvet walls. Harvey Weinstein hosting a no-press, invite-only bash at the SoHo House outpost above Sunset. (Want in? Fat chance.) Madonna and Demi Moore collaborating on an Oscar party at record producer Guy Oseary's house. (You aren't invited.) Prince playing a concert at his house. Rumors that Clooney was going to throw a little something together for close friends at Dan Tana's restaurant? (Definitely, maybe.) If nothing else, the lobby of Chateau.

Limos in the drive-thru line at the In-N-Out burger on Sunset. Between those limos, en route to the Elton John party, one of the finest Tauruses available at the Avis counter. That's you and me -- the unforgivably snarky we -- it's Oscar night after all. The A-list goes to parties in private places we could never dream of, and all is right in the world.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company